Ezra Pound, Italy, and the Cantos

BookEzra Pound, Italy, and the Cantos

Ezra Pound, Italy, and the Cantos

Clemson University Press: The Ezra Pound Center for Literature Book Series, 4


March 18th, 2020



Other Formats



Ezra Pound lived in Italy spanning six decades (1920s to 1970s) and composed here most of his ambitious American and international epic, The Cantos. He largely employed Italian materials: landscapes, artworks, politics, history, people. Bacigalupo’s study approaches Pound’s poetry through its principal physical and cultural background proposing a new and rewarding reading of The Cantos as an account of things seen and noted with a poet’s eye for the striking detail and telling phrase. We visit with Pound his favorite cities and landscapes (Rome, Venice, Rapallo) and encounter some of his foremost Italian peers, associates and translators. Bacigalupo offers readings of important and neglected writings by Pound and shows how he created an autobiographical myth out of his multifarious experience. We get to see the poet at work and are provided with new essential keys to a nuanced understanding of Pound’s lively, tantalizing and contradictory poetic world. This is the first time that so much material concerning a central aspect of Pound’s life and writing has been gathered in one volume.


'This book is a marvel. It is, at last, an exciting account of Ezra Pound awakening to the beauty of Italy. There he found reason for his belief in a verse that is alive, and for his insistence that "art is a joyous thing." In his seafront attic in Rapallo, and in his walks through the Ligurian hills, he heard a new rhythm and melody, and felt elated in the clarity of the landscape. Massimo Bacigalupo guides us through The Cantos, helping us see the poem's wonders through Italy -- and the opposite, Italy's through the poetry. Here, too, are lively relationships with other writers such as Yeats, Montale, Eliot, and H.D., all influenced by the impudent yet munificent Italian-based American poet. Best of all, Bacigalupo, as a family friend, gives us an intimate account of the Pound ménage, filled with delicious anecdotes and new facts for a portrait of the poet, his life, and his loves.'
Grace Schulman, recipient of Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry
'Ezra Pound spent most of his adult life in Rapallo, and Italy became the locale for his poetry and his aesthetics. Pound's Italian context is here established by Professor Bacigalupo, a major authority on Pound and his literary milieu, himself born in Rapallo, and knowing Pound from his own childhood until the poet’s last years. A much-needed frame is added to our understanding of this great American rebel.'
Michael Alexander, author of The Poetry of Ezra Pound

'Fresh readings, sharp insights--a surprising new look at this inexhaustibly enigmatic and challenging figure.'
Jonathan Galassi, President, Farrar Straus & Giroux
'Ezra Pound, Italy and the Cantos comes from the pen of one of the foremost Pound critics... as a guide to the Cantos so rooted in Italy and Italian history, and as an exploration of the people and forces that shaped Pound and his poetry, it would be hard to better this book. It should be of interest to both the general reader of poetry and to the academic specialist.'
William Wall, Dublin Review of Books
'One couldn’t ask for a better tour guide of Pound’s Italy... it not only clarifies hundreds of details in The Cantos, bringing us that much closer to the ideal of a completely annotated text, but is filled with fascinating anecdotes and revealing trivia... a major contribution to Pound studies.'
Steven Moore, Literary Matters
'Bacigalupo offers many perspectives on Pound and his relation to Italy and is especially helpful in prompting questions about the relation of real to imagined places.'
Peter Nicholls, Studies in Travel Writing
'Ezra Pound, Italy, and The Cantos unveils an intimate portrait of both poet and poem. Massimo Bacigalupo’s study is conversational in tone, yet nevertheless scholarly and astute.'
Patrick James Dunagan, Rain Taxi

'With delicate sensitivity and absolute mastery of the subject, Bacigalupo leads the reader into the labyrinth of the Cantos and along the troubles of Pound's life, studded with encounters with extraordinary men and wonderful women, shedding a little light to help the reader see Beauty and to appreciate what is right.'
Luca Gallesi, Il Giornale & Letteratura Statunitense

'Massimo Bacigalupo comes from a family with a long history of actual personal connection with the Pounds; as his new study both implicitly suggests and explicitly demonstrates, such intimacies are affective and meaningful... Bacigalupo's study is, overall, a sensitive, erudite, and very approachable collection of essays that assumes a fair degree of knowledge about Pound's life and work, but does not require it.'
Michael Kindellan, Wallace Stevens Journal

'Bacigalupo's book is interwoven with detailed agnosticism and analysis, especially in the third part, frontally dedicated to a series of Readings, hand to hand with the harsh difficulty of Pound's text. But perhaps its most seductive aspect is precisely the possibility, for the reader, of using it as a critical Baedecker, a safe compass for wandering around Pound's continent, relying on the author's geographies. [...] The reader can continue - even happily - to get lost. But it can do so, now, with the support of a study that knows how to come to terms with even the most aberrant side of Pound, without pretending it does not exist. And knows, above all, how to capture every glimmer of his elusive, ambiguous, "luminous details".'Massimo Natale, il Manifesto
Translated from Italian:
'Il volume di Bacigalupo è intessuto di agnizioni e analisi dettagliate, soprattutto nella terza parte, frontalmente dedicata a una serie di Readings, di corpo a corpo con l’aspra difficoltà del testo poundiano. Ma forse il suo aspetto più seduttivo è proprio la possibilità, per il lettore, di usarlo come un Baedecker critico, una bussola sicura per aggirarsi nel continente-Pound, affidandosi alle geografie autoriali. [...] Il lettore può continuare – anche felicemente – a perdersi. Ma può farlo, ora, con la scorta di uno studio che sa fare i conti anche con il lato più aberrante di Pound, senza fingere che questo non esista. E sa, soprattutto, cogliere ogni chiarore dei suoi sfuggenti, ambigui, «luminous details».'Massimo Natale, il Manifesto

'Bacigalupo is, first and foremost, a brilliant interpreter of Pound’s work; this personal experience of Pound’s Italian world, however, gives him an edge over most other Poundians, particularly with regard to the theme of this book. [...] Here as elsewhere in the book, Bacigalupo is authoritative and carefully attentive to all the nuances of Pound’s translation in comparison with the Italian original, giving the benefit of the doubt where beauty outweighs a more literal accuracy. [...] Bacigalupo’s book is always original and stimulating in its insights. Put simply, it is a tour de force, a must-read for any Poundian worth their sale.'
Andrew Houwen, Make It New - Ezra Pound Society

'[Ezra Pound, Italy and The Cantos] is the most intimate and comprehensive look at Pound's creative process and the degree to which it is linked to his favoured places, art and history in Italy.'
Gary Geddes, Pacific Rim Review of Books

Author Information

Massimo Bacigalupo is emeritus professor of American literature at the University of Genoa, Italy, author of The Forméd Trace: The Later Poetry of Ezra Pound (Columbia University Press, 1980) and more recently the editor of Pound’s Posthumous Cantos (Carcanet, 2016). His articles and reviews have appeared in the Paris Review, Modern Language Review, Yale Review, Notes & Queries, The Wallace Stevens Journal, etc. He has edited and translated works by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dickinson, Melville, Eliot, Stevens, Faulkner, and Heaney. Bacigalupo grew up in Rapallo, in a family of doctors that knew Pound and his relatives as patients and friends. In 1985 he curated a centenary Pound exhibition in Rapallo. He has edited new editions and translations of the poetry, and is widely acknowledged as one of Pound’s foremost interpreters.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures9
List of Abbreviations11
Part I: Places19
1. How to Read the Cantos—Rapallo21
2. City vs. Country—Venice39
3. Greeting the Returning Gods—Rome49
4. The Green World59
Part II: Meetings71
5. "And Some Climbing”—Dante73
6. Nature, History, and Myth—Montale87
7. "My Best Translator”—Izzo105
8. "'Ma' Riess of Rapallo”—Laughlin125
Part III: Readings141
9. Poet as Anthropologist—“European Paideuma”143
10. Moscardino and Enrico Pea ("pronounced peh-ah")163
11. "Republican Correspondence”—The Italian Cantos 72 and 73187
12. The Pisan Cantos in Progress215
Part IV: Endings229
13. "I wish he would explain his explanation"231
14. End to Torment?—E.P., H.D., and La Martinelli247
15. Sant'Ambrogio in the Half-Light273
16. America vs. Italy in the Posthumous Cantos287